By Daniel Hunter

The retail sector is a key engine of social mobility, but the Government should work with retailers and keep regulatory burdens to a minimum to make the most of this potential.

Delegates at the British Retail Consortium's (BRC) Annual Parliamentary Reception tonight (Wednesday) will hear that retail is one of the most meritocratic sectors of the economy, but the Government needs to work in partnership with retailers and avoid stifling their investment in people with unnecessary red tape.

The reception marks the launch of Retail in Society: Opportunities for All, a collection of case studies which outline how the sector is enabling people from all backgrounds to progress up the career ladder. It includes a foreword from Alan Milburn, Chair of the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission, in which he commends retailers for investing in their employees and offering them genuine opportunities to progress and develop their skills.

Retail is the UK's largest private sector employer, providing jobs to around three million people. One in every eight households has someone who works in retail, many of them taking advantage of the part-time and flexible working that enables them to combine work and parenting or caring responsibilities, studying, or reducing their working hours as they prepare for retirement.

The sector provides jobs to 40 per cent of 16-19 year olds currently in employment and invests an average of £1,275 on training per employee every year. One in six people with no qualifications work in retail and 13 per cent of staff has a disability.

"In retail, career progression is based on aptitude and attitude. You really can climb from shop floor to boardroom," Helen Dickinson, Director General at the British Retail Consortium, said.

"Retailers are uniquely placed to promote social mobility and help the Government deliver on its growth, jobs and skills priorities, but this shouldn't be taken for granted.

"There has to be a genuine partnership with business and retailers need to be involved in designing new job creation and skills programmes. We must not let our investment in people be stifled by allowing red tape to get in the way."

Speakers at the event, which is being held this evening at the House of Commons, include Baroness Shephard of Northwold, the Deputy Chair of the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission, BRC Chair Ian Cheshire and Ann Coffey MP and Jane Ellison MP, co-chairs of the All Party Retail Group.

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